Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia. She had a quiet, bookish life as a child before attending Georgia State College for Women and going on tot he Writers Workshop at the State University of Iowa, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree. Her 1949 dissertation consisted of six short stories, one of which she developed into her first novel, Wise Blood (1952). Wise Blood is the story of a fanatical, wandering preacher who sets out to found a "church of truth without Jesus Christ crucified." The book introduces some of the religious themes that run throughout O'Connor's later work. Her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away (1960), is the story of murder involving a Tennessee backwoods preacher and a small boy. Once again, O'Connor explores unusual manifestation of religion and human eccentricities. Although O'Connor produced only a small body of work during her relatively brief lifetime, she has received much critical attention. O'Connor suffered from lupus, an inherited disease, which crippled her and cut short her life, and so her creative work was largely compressed within a decade of the 1950's. Her father also dies of Lupus when she was 15 years old. O'Connor is frequently praised as being the most creative and distinctive writer of this period. The two most notable aspects of her fiction are its religious themes and its commentary on the oppressive traditions of the mid-twentieth-century Deep South.
Editor and author Robert Giroux was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 8, 1914. He dropped out of Regis High School shortly before graduation in order to take a newspaper job with The Jersey Journal. He received a scholarship to Columbia University, became editor-in-chief of The Columbia Review, and graduated in 1936. He joined the public relations department at the Columbia Broadcasting System and worked there for four years before finding his first editing job at Harcourt, Brace, and Company in 1940. During World War II, he served in the Navy. He joined Farrar, Straus and Company in 1955 as editor-in-chief and almost 20 of his writers at Harcourt followed him including T. S. Eliot, Bernard Malamud, and Flannery O'Connor. He became a partner in the publishing company in 1964 and eventually chairman. He also wrote several books including The Book Known as Q: A Consideration of Shakespeare's Sonnets, The Education of an Editor, and A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor. He was the president of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures from 1975 to 1982. He received numerous awards for his work including The Alexander Hamilton Medal from the Columbia University alumni association in 1987, the Mayoral Award of Honor for Art and Culture from the City of New York in 1989, and the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement in 2006. He died on September 5, 2008 at the age of 94.